AmeriScan: January 24, 2000

ENERGY DEPARTMENT SETS SIGHTS ON GEOTHERMAL ENERGY

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced today an initiative to promote the development of geothermal energy. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) "GeoPowering the West" project sets a goal of providing as much as 10 percent of the Western states’ power supply from geothermal energy by 2020. Geothermal technology uses reservoirs of heat energy from beneath the Earth's surface to generate electricity and supply heating for residential and commercial buildings. "Geothermal power is a clean, reliable and renewable energy source available in all Western states," Richardson said. "In fact, it is already a significant supplier of electricity in California, with additional resources in Nevada, Utah and Hawaii." Geothermal plants in California now produce about 1,600 megawatts of power, supplying about seven percent of the state’s annual power needs.

Richardson also announced the awarding of $4.8 million in research grants for geothermal energy technology development projects in six Western states: California, Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Utah. "Geopowering the West" sets additional goals of supplying the electric power or heating needs of at least seven million homes with geopower by 2010, and doubling the number of states with geothermal electric power facilities to eight by 2006. The initiative will partner the public and private sectors, as well as Native Americans and the agricultural community. "We are confident that this initiative will help to increase the power produced by this existing resource and make it a major contributor to our clean energy mix," said Richardson. A draft action plan for "Geopowering the West" is available at: http://www.eren.doe.gov/geopoweringthewest/. Public comments on the plan will be accepted through April 30.

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BROKEN PIPELINE SPILLS OIL IN GULF OF MEXICO

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - Some 94,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico Friday from a broken underwater pipeline. On Sunday, the oil formed a seven mile long slick about 115 miles south of New Orleans and 75 miles south of the nearest land. Today, just a few small oily areas remain on the water’s surface, Coast Guard Lt. Richard Reinemann said. Airplanes dropped a chemical to disperse the oil and speed up its natural degradation, and five oil recovery boats were sent to the area in case the slick moved toward land, which could have posed a threat to coastal areas. No dead birds or fish had been spotted, Coast Guard spokesman Jason Neubauer said. The remaining oil sheen has not traveled farther than 10 miles from the damaged section of pipeline, Reinemann said.

The Poseidon Pipeline, owned by Equilon Pipeline Co. of New Orleans, was ruptured after an eight ton anchor was accidentally dropped from an oil rig. The drilling rig was being towed to a new location when the anchor fell into the water, dropping about 440 feet to snag on the pipeline. The pipeline broke in several places after being dragged out of place by the anchor, and was shut down after Equilon’s monitoring systems detected a drop in pressure. The rig’s owner, Transocean Sedco Forex Inc. of Houston, said the accident was caused by a malfunction in the rig's anchor winch. Equilon is working on plans to fix the broken pipeline and to keep additional oil from leaking during repairs.

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PIPING PLOVERS GAIN PROTECTION UNDER TENTATIVE AGREEMENT

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and environmental groups have reached a tentative agreement over a three year old lawsuit to protect critical habitat for piping plovers, an endangered migratory bird with breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada. The agreement designates critical habitat for breeding populations in the Great Lakes and Great Plains. "It's great progress that we've been able to reach this agreement and protect the dwindling populations of plovers in the U.S.," said Bill Snape, vice president for law at Defenders of Wildlife. "But it's disheartening to know that the birds also breed in Canada, and as of today, they're not protected there. The minute they cross the border, their chance for survival plummets."

Defenders and other conservationists cited proposed legislation pending in Canada that would leave 95 percent of all endangered wildlife habitat unprotected in that country. "While Americans can feel confident that our imperiled natural heritage in protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the same can not be said for our Canadian brethren," said Brock Evans, executive director of the U.S. Endangered Species Coalition, which represents more than 400 environmental, animal welfare and other citizen groups. "The piping plover epitomizes the quandary now facing many North American endangered species as a result of Canada's reluctance to pass endangered species legislation," said Snape. "Canada must also step up to the plate if we are to succeed in preserving biological diversity on this continent."

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SHOAL BASS EARNS ITS OWN SCIENTIFIC NAME

GAINESVILLE, Florida, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - Scientists have identified a new species of bass, perhaps the last game fish in North America to get a scientific name, says a University of Florida (UF) researcher. "It's the end of an era in the sense that all the other bass and trout were discovered long ago, mostly in the 1700s and 1800s," said George Burgess, a UF ichthyologist who worked to establish the fish as a separate species. "From now on, scientists likely will describe only the smaller, cryptic species that have avoided detection despite our best efforts." Burgess and James Williams, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, described the new species of bass, called Micropterus cataractae, in the October 8 edition of the journal "The Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History."

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Burgess holding a preserved specimen of the newly named Micropterus cataractae (Photo courtesy UF)

The species getting a scientific name has been known by anglers for the last 50 years as the shoal bass because it thrives in the shoals of rivers in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, Burgess said. No one was certain the fish was different from its closest relative, the spotted bass, until Williams and Burgess noted key differences including coloration, absence of teeth on the tongue and number of rows of scales. "Our research should put to rest any questions about whether it's a valid species or merely a variant of one of the other species," Burgess said. "It's pretty much a slam dunk as far as we're concerned, and the scientific community already is aware of the fish." Williams said shoal bass are threatened by habitat loss caused by a series of dams on the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola rivers. Unlike other bass found in deep reservoirs and rivers, the shoal bass survives only in shoal areas in rivers and large creeks. "Now that we finally have formal recognition of this new species of bass, we can move forward in carrying out conservation programs and habitat protection programs that we couldn't do in the past without a scientific name or description," Williams said.

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ROANOKE FINED FOR HAZARDOUS WASTE VIOLATIONS

ROANOKE, Virginia, January 21, 2000 (ENS) - The city of Roanoke has pleaded guilty to illegally storing hazardous waste without a permit from 1994 to 1998, a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The city must pay a $125,000 fine, implement a comprehensive environmental management system and spend $475,000 on environmental projects.

The charges against Roanoke arose from improper storage of hazardous waste at the city Public Works Service Center (PWSC) and other locations, including a park and recreation facility. Drums of materials stored at the facilities contained a variety of materials including asphalt patch material and ignitable oil-based paints that contained hazardous levels of lead and the solvent toluene. In addition, the defendant buried drums at the PWSC site. Human exposure to lead in sufficient quantities can produce a variety of neurological illnesses and disorders of the skeleton and internal organs. The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigation Center, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia.

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NEW YORK FORESTS CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE

ALBANY, New York, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - New York has become the first state to receive National Wildlife Federation (NWF) SmartWood certification for all of its multiple use public forest lands. More than 700,000 acres of state forest land were certified as well managed for the long term health of the forest by NWF/SmartWood. These lands are managed for timber, wildlife, water quality and recreation uses. "Forests are an important natural resource that cover 62 percent of the state," said state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner John Cahill. "This certification demonstrates how proper management can both sustain our natural resources and help foster strong local economies." DEC had to meet more than 75 criteria established by the Forest Stewardship Council, including demonstrating that forest managers protect streams and wetlands and conserve fragile or uncommon wildlife.

Forest products from these lands will be labeled as "certified," allowing consumers to choose to purchase wood products from well managed forests. " The timber and wood products industry is an important part of the state's economy," said Cahill. "SmartWood certification will give these businesses another edge by letting consumers know that New York's forest products are environmentally friendly." "NWF/SmartWood certified properties use common sense management plans that build economic and ecological balance and help keep forests healthy for both people and wildlife," said NWF president Mark Van Putten. "New York's forests support a $2 billion wood products industry that employs more than 65,000 people, the same people who return to join thousands of tourists to camp, hike, fish and hunt in the state's beautiful forests."

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VIRGINIA PROMOTES ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

RICHMOND, Virginia, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore has launched a statewide environmental education program designed to help Virginians become better environmental stewards. "The goal of Virginia Naturally 2000 is to empower individuals with the knowledge they need to make the right decisions about their environment," said Gilmore. "Education is the key to excellence in environmental stewardship." The program brings together local, state and federal agencies, environmental organizations, businesses, industry and others to coordinate statewide environmental education activities. A priority of Virginia Naturally 2000 will be the development of a web site to promote the widespread availability of environmental information and publicize environmental education opportunities throughout the state.

"Environmental education is vital for the preservation of our natural resources," said state Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley, Jr. "With the full support of Governor Gilmore, environmental education will be a unifying theme for Virginia government. Virginia Naturally 2000 will help youth and adults across the Commonwealth make informed decisions about their actions, to promote a better understanding of the environment and the roles everyone can play in protecting it." The Virginia Resource-Use Education Council is providing staff support for the initiative, which will focus on coordinating the development and consistent delivery of environmental education programs in the schools, promoting alternative methods of educating Virginia citizens from all walks of life, and promoting lifelong learning and professional development based on Virginia’s academic standards.

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ALASKA FORUM HIGHLIGHTS ENVIRONMENT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - The Second Annual Alaska Forum on the Environment (AFE) will convene in Anchorage February 7-11. The AFE is a cooperative conference sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several other governmental and professional organizations. Native elders from across Alaska will provide their perspectives on the environment in Alaska and also participate in an informal "Talking Circle" to share traditional knowledge of the environment. The wide ranging agenda is organized around environmental topics including natural resources, environmental health, rural issues, watershed protection, and regulatory compliance.

"AFE began with a vision to provide a premiere educational event that also brings together all Alaskans who are in some way involved in the protection of the environment," said Kurt Eilo, chair of the AFE Planning Committee. "AFE provides Alaskans from varied social and work cultures with the opportunity to interact and develop a more in common vision and understanding. This event has become a springboard for statewide organizations to plan their individual meetings and events around this conference, taking advantage of the classes, speakers, and panel discussions offered throughout the week." Prior to the AFE, Alaskan students from grades 9-12 will participate in the development of Watershed Planning Goals within their own communities. When the Youth Congress meets in Anchorage, they will develop a vision statement of their hopes for Alaska's watershed resources and action plans for achieving their vision. More than 20 schools statewide are preparing for the event. More information is available at: http://www.akero.org

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FEMA RECOGNIZES PUBLIC SERVICE

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - Two environmental groups, two corporations and the director of the National Hurricane Center are among the nine recipients of the first Outstanding Public Service Award presented by FEMA. The award highlights the partnerships responsible for the success of FEMA’s Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities. "The awards are our way of thanking those influential individuals who have done so much to promote the concept of risk reduction in the past year," said FEMA Director James Lee Witt. "Without these people and their organizations, disasters would have a more severe impact across this nation, and wreak greater havoc."

David Conrad of the National Wildlife Federation, and Kathryn Hohmann and Brett Hulsey of the Sierra Club, were honored for helping to preserve floodplains and educate the public about protecting communities from flooding. Jamie Gorelick, vice chair of Fannie Mae, and Armen Khachadourian, senior vice president for new market development for VISA USA, were honored for their commitment to Project Impact goals. Fannie Mae has helped make low cost loans available to homeowners wanting to take damage prevention measures while VISA is making it easier for homeowners to buy flood insurance using their VISA credit cards, and contributing a portion of each transaction to Project Impact communities. Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center, was honored for assistance in promoting and supporting hurricane emergency preparedness and for saving lives with accurate weather warnings. The Illinois Interagency Mitigation Advisory Group's Acquisition Relocation Committee; Kim Lee, coordinator for the Wyoming Emergency Management Agency's Fremont County; Chief Richard Marinucci, of the Farmington Hill, Michigan, Fire Department; and Daniel Shapiro, CEO of SOHA Engineers also received awards.

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BUDWEISER NAMES OUTDOORSMAN OF THE YEAR

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, January 24, 2000 (ENS) - Tory Taylor of Dubois, Wyoming, has been named the 2000 "Budweiser Outdoorsman of the Year." Taylor, a backcountry outfitter specializing in horse packing trips in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, has promoted numerous wildlife conservation projects over the past 20 years. He is a past president of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and current president of the Dubois Wildlife Association, a local conservation group working on projects such as elk winter range protection, bighorn sheep disease and grizzly bear and wolf recovery. "The 'Budweiser Outdoors' program is an outstanding example of how corporate America can roll up its sleeves and work with outdoor organizations to conserve wildlife habitat," Taylor said. "The outdoors community needs all the help it can get and I hope other companies follow Budweiser's lead in the future."

In the 1980s, Taylor originated the "Ride for Wildlife" in Wyoming and Colorado to draw attention to the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation and wildlife conservation. He has also worked as an instructor on horse packing courses for the National Outdoor Leadership School, teaching outdoor skills and conservation ethics. Taylor was selected from among four finalists by Budweiser drinkers across the country, and was given a $50,000 grant from Budweiser and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to distribute to conservation organizations of his choice. "Tory truly represents the conservationist spirit which we, as a company, strive to uphold," said David English, vice president of premium brands, Anheuser-Busch, Inc. This is the fifth year Budweiser has honored an outdoorsman.